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Debunking Arthritis Myths – Recognizing National Arthritis Month

Your family doctor recently told your young nephew he has juvenile arthritis. Your friend in her 20s is living with rheumatoid arthritis. [[wysiwyg_imageupload:208:]]They seem to be unlikely arthritis patients, and this comes as a surprise to you – don’t only older people get arthritis?

Arthritis is a medical term that we hear about often, but most characteristics about the disease that come to mind are simply misconceptions. Arthritis affects more than 50 million Americans – one in five adults has the disease where common symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in or around the joints. Arthritis can affect people of various backgrounds and its severity can be greater than most may think.  

Since May is National Arthritis Month, we decided to address the four most common myths and misconceptions associated with arthritis.

Myth 1: Arthritis is a single disease.

Arthritis is the umbrella term used to describe over 100 medical conditions and diseases, known as rheumatic diseases.

Three prevalent forms of arthritis are:

  1. Osteoarthritis (OA): OA is a degenerative disorder that causes the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, affecting about 27 million people in the U.S. Risk factors include increasing age, obesity, previous joint injury, joint overuse and genetics.
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation along with possible joint and bone damage. About 1.5 million people in the nation have RA, with nearly three times as many women having the disease as men.
  3. Juvenile Arthritis (JA): JA is the term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger. Approximately 1 in every 250 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with JA.

Myth 2: Arthritis only affects the older population.

Although OA is more likely to happen at an older age, as you can see with JA, the disease can affect any age. In fact, two-thirds of those with arthritis are under 65 years old, including 300,000 children.

Myth 3: Joint health is not a serious issue.

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the country and is the most frequent cause of activity limitations. For 40 percent of people with the disease, arthritis is a hindrance to work activity and can lead to early retirement. Additionally, 1 in 3 U.S. adults with arthritis were found to have anxiety or depression.

Myth 4: People with arthritis should avoid exercise.

In addition to combating arthritis with personalized treatment plans, arthritis patients are encouraged to exercise regularly to reduce pain and strengthen the muscles around joints. As the prevalence of arthritis increases with weight gain, managing one’s weight is an integral part of controlling joint pain.

Important Achievements in Arthritis Research and Legislation

From a policy and research perspective, what has been done to combat arthritis and provide relief for patients throughout the country? Following are a few of the milestones reached so far:

1972: President Richard Nixon signed a presidential proclamation declaring the month of May as National Arthritis Month, asking the public to unite in the nation’s efforts to control arthritic diseases.

1999: The CDC Arthritis Program was developed to increase awareness about arthritis self-management activities, expand the reach of programs for the betterment of people with arthritis and lastly, decrease the overall burden of arthritis.

2010: The House passed the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act of 2010 (H.R. 1210), which was the first comprehensive, bipartisan arthritis legislation in more than 30 years. The legislation was aimed at better focusing federal funded arthritis research, expanding public health initiatives to combat arthritis and improving access to pediatric rheumatologists through a National Arthritis Action Program.

2013: Patients’ Access to Treatments Act of 2013 (PATA/H.R. 460) was re-introduced to help eliminate ”specialty” tiers in commercial health insurance plans and reduce out-of-pocket expenses, which would cost patients hundreds of dollars per month for a single medication.

Looking Ahead

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 67 million adults or 25 percent of the population will have arthritis by the year 2030. Arthritis and related conditions continue to cost the United States economy $128 billion per year in medical care and indirect expenses, including lost wages and productivity.

Let National Arthritis Month serve as a mean to encourage us to take part toward finding a cure for arthritis and preventing and managing the disease. We can begin to do this by:

  • Using available resources to get the facts about arthritis. Nearly 80 percent of adults either have or know someone with arthritis, so it’s important to learn about this often misunderstood disease.
  • Educating others about the impact of the disease. As communications professionals, we have been successful in delivering meaningful results through advocacy for our clients by pushing clear, factual messaging to the public.
  • Keeping active to improve our overall quality of health and life. Regardless of whether adults and children have arthritis or not, exercise and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle are key to reducing the risk of developing osteoarthritis. 


In: Consumer Health  /   filed under: national arthritis month